1. How much anticipation is there in Manhattan for this game? In terms of hype and excitement, where does this game rank among season openers since Snyder made KSU a nationally relevant program?
Mixed emotions exist among K-State fans about the game against Stanford. Ticket holders are accustomed to seven home appearances by the Wildcats each season. With just four Big 12 games at home and a nonconference game on the road, K-State plays just six home games.
Still, the opportunity to play a program the stature of Stanford is quite unusual to begin the season. There is much anticipation for the national telecast, and a chance to upset a top-10 opponent. The last time K-State played a ranked team on the road to begin the season was at No. 14 Auburn in 2007 when Ron Prince coached the Wildcats. Bill Snyder, who enters his 25th season as coach, has never opened against a ranked opponent on the road. In fact, K-State last opened on the road under Snyder in 2001, a 10-6 win at Southern Cal.
So, yes, there is some anxiety -- good and bad -- about the opener.
2. Complete this sentence: If the Wildcats are going to win ______ are the players who need to have big games.
QB Jesse Ertz ... WR Byron Pringle ... SS Dante Barnett.
3. Stanford has an inexperienced quarterback and offensive line. How will Kansas State try to exploit these potential problem areas for the Cardinal, and how do you like the Wildcats' chances of creating mismatches there?
K-State will attempt to offer some different looks defensively and can do with its experience. DE Jordan Willis is a good pass rusher. DT Will Geary is a bull inside capable of bench-pressing a small planet. The linebackers are all experienced.
In spite of those potential strengths, the K-State defense withered last season because of injuries and inexperience. However, it usually fares best against teams that like to play power football and do not exploit mistakes in pass coverage with receivers blessed with breakneck speed.
4. What are Kansas State's strengths? Are they trending upward from last year's 6-6 finish? What is expected of them this season?
Defense should be a strength with many veterans returning, including Barnett, who sat out last season after he was injured in the season opener. His addition provides an experienced play-caller in the back end.
Special teams have long been a strength under Snyder. Both kickers return. A new return man must be found to replace All-American Morgan Burns. The Wildcats, however, went into last season needing to address the loss of Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks) and Burns worked out, returning four kickoffs for touchdowns.
K-State should be better than last season, though the schedule is difficult with road tests at Stanford, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU. Usually, Snyder's teams are sufficiently motivated coming off a sub-par season. The 6-7 mark a year ago was the first losing season for the Wildcats since Snyder returned as coach in 2009. Picked eighth in the Big 12 by conference media, they should surpass that prediction and potentially be a big surprise if key newcomers such as Pringle pan out.
5. How much of Stanford have you watched in the Harbaugh/Shaw era, and what impressions did they leave you? Have you covered a game at Stanford Stadium (or any other Pac-12 venue before)? Were you a Heisman voter last year, and what were your thoughts on Derrick Henry beating Christian McCaffrey for the award?
I have not covered a game at Stanford and have not watched the Cardinal closely in the Harbaugh/Shaw era. I have covered games at Washington, Arizona State, Southern Cal and, of course, Colorado from when the Buffs were in the Big Eight/Big 12.
I am a Heisman voter and in fact serve as coordinator for Heisman voting in Kansas. I listed Christian McCaffrey ahead of Derrick Henry last season on my ballot, though I was not upset by Henry's choice as the Heisman recipient.
6. Talk about the job Bill Snyder building Kansas State from what Sports Illustrated called " Futility U" to what exists there now. Longtime There probably a lot of fans out there who don't understand how impressive and unlikely a success story it is. How impressive would you call it? If greatness is measured in the distance between No. 1 and second-best, how big is the gap between Snyder's work and his closest competition for the most impressive reclamation/construction project in college football history?
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self once told me this about the job Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State: "Greatest coaching job ever. Anywhere.'' As I recall, Self punctuated every word.
Words can barely describe the desperate situation Snyder faced when he took over at K-State. Enrollment had declined to around 14,000, so the university as a whole had problems. Football had mostly been a consistent loser. The only previous conference title came in 1934 in the Big Six. It was Pappy Waldorf's only season coaching at Kansas State. He moved on to Northwestern and later California.
Snyder offered no miracle cure, but did promise to make Kansas State a winner through a tough, diligent work ethic that would be repeated each and every day.
There have been other incredible turnarounds. The latest in the Big 12 was at Baylor, though now we are seeing lawless shortcuts were taken in Waco that short-circuited the university's mission. Snyder has not been perfect. He has had a few controversies. No one can coach 25 years at the same major-college program without them. Yet the basic values he established for players in his program -- 16 goals, he calls them -- have remained intact. With a consistent approach, he established a winner expected to always compete and sometimes contend.
7. How soon will Snyder step down again? For those who aren't familiar with his recent years, explain why he retired the first time and what it took to bring him back.
Snyder stepped down once and was not overly fond of retirement. I believe as long as his health remains satisfactory, he will continue as K-State's football coach. Some point to this as his final year because it is his 25th as K-State's coach and he is approaching 200 wins. Yet Snyder has never been about milestones. He is about the process, and as much as he can never absolutely say what it is about coaching that he loves, it is what he knows. He will turn 77 in October, yet still out-works most in his profession.
8. What's next for the Big 12? How likely is Texas and/or Oklahoma to leave? How soon do you expect the conference to expand, and who will come in? How much does it miss Nebraska and Colorado?
The future of the Big 12 is tough to predict. Frankly, the candidates for expansion are not impressive, or else the Big 12 would have taken in more programs already. I am not convinced it will expand currently, though if Texas and/or Oklahoma leave, it would greatly weaken the conference. The league is designated as a Power 5 member only if Texas stays on board. Texas, however, has its own network, which makes it difficult for the Big 12 to gain that kind of vehicle other Power 5 conferences enjoy.
Personally I miss Nebraska, because it was an easy trip from Topeka and the setting in Lincoln on a football Saturday is unlike any I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I miss Colorado because Boulder is a great college town and the mountain setting was a beautiful diversion. Fans probably feel some of that too. The Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12 are all groupings we know vividly as Kansans. Yet in the brave, new, transitional world of college athletics, we realize now that some things are not forever. It is a big concern, particularly for Kansas State, how things shake out with the latest discussions over Big 12 composition and whether any additional stability is created.